Saturday, October 19, 2013

Bathroom Humor

When I was a senior in high school, I had an onslaught of health issues.  Actually, I believe all of the medical craziness started my junior year.  My sister had gone on a mission trip, contracted mono from a water fountain, and passed it on to me before we knew she had it (and yes, while it is the kissing disease, my sister and I have never been physically affectionate...but we would share food and drinks, so there you go).  Mono manifested itself in two very different ways.  I was basically lethargic and drained of all energy.  My sister ended up in the hospital with other issues that stemmed from mono.  She and I both were "home bound" for awhile...which was just torture.  She and I both liked and missed school.  But, we made it through ever so gracefully. 

The next year, I started having issues with my voice.  I had always been a singer, first soprano, to be exact.  I loved to sing.  My senior year, my voice would go in and out.  I would wake up one morning with no voice.  Other days I would sound like Rod Stewart.  And, some days, I would sound like me.  My parents took me to the doctor who sent me to an ENT doctor.  After a couple of simple tests, he decided I was out of his league, and he referred us to Dr. Kaufman at Wake Forest.  I spent several months traveling in and out of Winston-Salem trying to figure out what was going on with my throat.  At first, the diagnosis was nodules, then polyps, then cysts.  I would go on vocal rest for days with no change.  I had one overnight test where a tube went up my nose, down my throat, and into my stomach.  It had to stay in place for 24 hours, and I was supposed to conduct life as usual.  That was entertaining...imagine trying to eat a salad and swallow a piece of lettuce while a tube is dangling in the back of your throat.  That test resulted no helpful information.  Another procedure that was completely insane involved 9 needles...not flu shot needles, horror movie needles.  The needles had to be long enough to go through my throat and to make contact with my vocal chords.  I don't know about now, but when I had this procedure, the neck could not be numbed.  During this test, I had to talk and sing while the doctor inserted needles.  This procedure gave the doctor some direction.  The last procedure was the one that answered all the questions.    So, I was laid on a table.  There was a picture of a sailboat over my head.  The doctor told me I could pick what music was playing during the procedure...this was during my Broadway phase, so I asked for show tunes.  I had to be awake during this test as well, and again, nothing was numbed.  If you ever look at my neck, you can see a hint of a scar.  That's from the incision the doctor made while I was very much awake.  My throat was literally sliced open, the nurses pinned my skin back, and the doctor would have me repeat things to him and sing songs while he literally watched my vocal chords in action.  This is the procedure that answered everything.  We discovered that my left vocal chord was/is completely paralyzed.  So, my right vocal chord was doing the work of 2.  Over my 18 years (at the time), cysts and nodules would appear because of the overuse of one chord.  What was the answer?  Well, the doctor gave me a silicone implant in my left vocal chord.  This fattened it up and took a little stress off the right chord.  Of course, me in all my inappropriateness, started telling people I had an implant, but just on the left side...

That same year, I started having digestive issues.  I won't go into the details, simply because it is just plain gross.  During this time, I had a sigmoid scope, , endoscope, barium swallow, and my favorite, a colonoscopy.  Oh, and let's not forget the wonderful prep work for these procedures.  Enemas...just sayin'.  We found out that I had Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis...or, as my doctor liked to say, Crohn's Colitis.  (This is an auto-immune condition where basically the body attacks itself.  In my case, this means ulcers lining my intestines as well as inflamed/raw/exposed sections of the intestines.)  During my first colonoscopy, I was under "twilight anesthesia".  Apparently, when I am relaxed or my inhibitions are lowered, I become very inquisitive.  So, as I'm slightly dazed but can see the computer monitor, I am asking questions nonstop.  The poor doctor.  Afterwards, I was wheeled into the recovery room where I noticed I was the only girl and the only person under 70.  If you've ever had a colonoscopy, you know that air is pumped into your colon so the camera can make its way around easier.  So, the recovery room is basically just a place of flatulence.  Now, I am very southern, and very ladylike.  I kept asking the nurse to take me to the bathroom...I just couldn't get the air out as easily as the gentlemen I was sharing the space with.  I remember walking through the room to the bathroom thinking that this is what the symphony would sound like if it only used the winds section.  There are some things I would love to forget...

After my senior year of medical drama, I attended Mars Hill College for a time.  On the mirror of my dorm room, I posted pictures of my slit-open throat, vocal chords, and intestines...my Mama was mortified, but I thought it was funny.  Oh, the warped sense of humor.  Honestly, it was like a protective measure.  Those pictures made everyone look at me twice...probably wondering whether or not I was sane.  I thought it would repel guys, but the gross factor reeled them in.  Who knew?

As I've grown older, I have had a variety of medical issues, mainly pertaining to Crohn's.  When my condition is active, I loose a lot of blood, I stay in a constant state of abdominal pain, sleep is almost impossible to achieve, and I have the tendency to pass out.  Digestive diseases are so glamorous.  There isn't a cure for Crohn's but there are medications available as well as natural remedies.  I have tried everything that I can afford to try.  I'm not trying to sound like a victim or drama queen...actually, I think God knew what He was doing when He allowed me to have these issues.  He had already equipped me with a messed up sense of humor, so who better to handle this kind of disease?  Stress triggers flare-ups.  Right now, I'm under a lot of stress.  I am surprised that I haven't been sick before now.  But, I am guessing that is a God-timing-thing.  I know it could be so much worse, and I am so thankful that this is all I have going on medically.  I have so many friends and loved ones who are dealing with physical ailments that are so tragic.  Mine is more inconvenient.  While I hope and pray for remission, I am sure God is trying to teach me something through this current flare-up...and I'm ok with that.  I just hope He throws in some funny moments, too!  I mean, who doesn't love bathroom humor, right Mama?  Seriously, I am ready to feel like myself again and to not be constantly tired and in pain.  But, I know there is a lesson somewhere in this.  So, I'll praise God through it.  His plan, His timing, and His faithfulness have proven over and over to make more sense than mine.  Just get me through it gracefully, Lord!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Remembering My Daddy...

My Daddy's birthday was last week.  He passed away several years ago out of the blue.  I do miss him greatly.  Even though our relationship was very damaged when he died, he was still my Daddy.  And, I have so many wonderful memories of my time on earth with him.
Me and my Daddy (circa 1988)
When I think about growing up with my Daddy, I have some wonderful memories.  My Daddy was a die-hard UNC Tarheel fan...a quality that was passed on with great passion to my sister and brothers.  When I was a little girl, I rooted for N.C. State Wolfpack just to aggravate my Daddy.  I can remember him yelling at the TV for hours when the Tarheels were playing basketball.  I remember that Daddy had about 50 UNC t-shirts.  And, in the garage, he had a shelf of random UNC memorabilia...he had a few collections of bottled Cokes which I never understood why we couldn't open and drink them.
Daddy with his 4 kiddos...
My Daddy was extremely talented.  He had a strong, rich baritone voice.  He would sing all of the time.  He loved Southern Gospel music.  He would travel around our community singing at homecomings, wedding, funerals, in nursing homes, at community events.  I often went with my Daddy when he would sing, and sometimes I would sing with him.  I share my Daddy's love for music.  I love to sing...anything!  My Daddy taught me and encouraged me to sing.  He never critiqued me.  I remember sharing the stage with Daddy on several occasions.  The one that I remember most was when he and I sang at a funeral.  It was my first funeral.  I was a nervous wreck.  But, Daddy had every confidence in me...he told me to sing to the family and ignore everyone else.  He told me to let God use my voice to minister to them.  That stuck with me. 
The whole crew before Andrea's prom...
Oh my goodness, my Daddy was accident prone.  Sadly, a trait my siblings and I have inherited.  I have so many crazy stories of incidents that happened with Daddy.  My Mama has more than I can remember, I'm sure.  My favorite story happened on a Thanksgiving Day.  We lived across the road from my Grandmama, and we had gone to her house to get ready for Thanksgiving dinner.  Down the hill from my Grandmama's house was another home that she rented out.  A man lived there who was unable to walk and who had 2 rottweilers (this is important later in the story).  There was a tree on this property that had a broken limb or something...and I would estimate it was at least 40 feet in the air (I may be off, but it was high!).  Daddy scaled the tree and wedged himself between 2 branches to cut off the damaged branch.  Well, the branch fell to the ground, but Daddy was STUCK!  All of us were on the hill watching and yelling.  The neighbors rottweilers were circling the tree barking like crazy.  It was a redneck spectacle!  My Grandmama called 9-1-1, who shockingly knew the route to our house better than any other.  A firetruck came, rescued Daddy, who, if I remember correctly, broke his leg in the process.  Happy Thanksgiving, right?

Basketball Homecoming, Senior Year 1999
Daddy was always proud of my siblings and me.  The four of us had different strengths, but the expectations for all of us were very high.  Daddy valued education.  He had a technical degree from AB Tech, but he pushed for us to "do better" than him.  He kept on top of all of our grades.  He bragged on any achievement any of us had.  My brothers were awesome athletes, and my Daddy LOVED to cheer them on.  And, yes, he may have been kicked out of a few games, but I count that as being passionate about sports and my brothers.  My sister shared Daddy's artistic spirit.  Daddy was a wood carver and made beautiful creations...my sister sketched and also took a try at carving.  No matter what we did, what we were interested in, what are skill-set was, Daddy encouraged it.  My junior year of high school, I was on the football homecoming court and Daddy got to drive me on to the field in a BMW...he thought he had arrived!  And, my senior year, he escorted me on the basketball homecoming court.  I remember him being so proud to be my Daddy.  That is a feeling that I will always treasure.  But, the biggest compliment from him happened my 9th grade year.  That year, I sang the national anthem at the only football game Erwin one that season (Daddy accredited the win to my voice), I had a solo with 3 seniors (He Never Failed Me Yet...love that song), and got to sing a solo during the Mass in G at a festival at Brevard College...the moments when I sang were when my Daddy boasted the most.  And, that year, he told everyone we encountered about every musical accomplishment I had.  I was always embarrassed, but inwardly so happy I had made my Daddy proud.
On my 18th birthday...
My Daddy taught all of us to love anyone and everyone.  He knew EVERYONE in our community.  When we would go to the grocery store, we would be there for at least an hour, because he stopped and talked to everyone.  Not only did he talk to them, but he knew their stories.  My Daddy genuinely cared about people.  It never mattered what their skin color was, how much money they did or didn't have, whether they were clean or dirty...none of the superficial things mattered to my Daddy.  He cared more about the heart of people and the story they had to share.  That quality has been passed on to my siblings and me.  As I look at the four of us, all grown up, I see that legacy in each of our lives.  We love people.  We were blessed to be trained up by a Daddy who showed us how to love others, how to see past labels, and how to truly care about people.  This is a legacy I absolutely want to pass on to my children.
Rehearsal before my wedding, Dec. 2000
While I do have a treasure trove of amazing memories with my Daddy, our relationship the last two years of his life was very tormented.  To respect the memory of my Daddy and to honor him, I am not going to share the details of how our relationship crumbled.  I will say that anyone can fall into sin and temptation...even wonderful Christian men.  My prayer for anyone who reads this is to pray diligently for the men in your lives...they have such a demanding and important spiritual role.  When the enemy attacks, if he can take out the man of the house, he can destroy a family.  Pray protection over your families!  Pray for strength for the men in your life!  If sin takes a foothold, get help before it becomes a stronghold.  God is bigger than any temptation, but we have to pray and fight against it!
Dec. 2000
After my Daddy's death, I struggled greatly with bitterness...I was overcome with anger.  How could God take my Daddy before we could restore our relationship?  How could I have so many unresolved issues with my father?  How could I get answers?  Why did he choose the life he chose?  I had a notebook full of hows and whys.  Knowing I couldn't get these answers on this side of heave, and believing when I am in heaven with my Daddy, the answers wouldn't matter almost made me crazy.  Finally, I spent a day writing a letter to my Daddy.  I drove to the cemetery where he is buried.  I completely believe that the moment he died that he was in the presence of the Lord.  But, his grave was the only place I could think of to take the letter.  I went to his headstone, sat down, read the letter, and wept.  I lamented my shortcomings in our relationship.  I admitted to having conditional love and limited grace with him.  I yelled at him for the wrongs I had felt from him.  I cried, I ranted...I let it go.
James Earl Ross aka Jimmy aka Daddy
I guess what I want to convey with this post to love your family.  I know we can't pick them and there are some crazy members of any family.  There are going to be struggles, fights, difficulties, hardships...there are going to be times when you may have to take a step back from a relationship because it is hurting you.  You may have relatives that are seasonal at best.  Again, that's ok, and I'm not criticizing that.  God has blessed me with many wonderful "family" members who are not related to me by blood.  I would just encourage you to face the challenging relationships with unconditional love and a lot of grace.  None of us are doing life perfectly.  We all have our quirks and issues.  Some may appear "bigger" than others, but when it comes down to it, through God's eyes, sin is sin...there is not a rating system.  Remember that God loves you, He sent His son to die in your place...but He also did that for the challenging people in your life.  Remember the grace that has been shown to you.  And, as hard as it can be, try to show that grace to others.  If I could go back in time, I would handle the relationship with my Daddy with a lot more grace.  Maybe then, when he passed away, we would have been in good standing with each other.  Treasure every good memory you make, and don't let mistakes tarnish the wonderful experiences!